As a blogger I like to think I’m fairly savvy when it comes to the internet. At least in comparison to my husband who is a self-proclaimed tech phobe, so I know that it will be down to me to teach Taylor about the dangers of the internet as she gets older.
A daunting responsibility
But in all honesty, this responsibility scares the hell out of me. The internet changes every day – new social media sites, forums, video platforms and file sharing sites are constantly being developed…It can sometimes feel a little overwhelming keeping our finger on the digital pulse as parents. If I spoke to a teenager today, they’d probably be using sites and social media I’ve never heard of, or at least don’t fully understand.
One issue in particular that concerns me is cyber bullying. I was (thankfully) never majorly bullied at school, but I remember well that feeling of intimidation from certain characters and loneliness at times when I was yet to make any ‘true friends’. On the ‘bad days’ I remember I couldn’t wait to get home to the safety and comfort of my family and my own bedroom, where I could shut away the school day.
It worries me that in today’s world there is no point when our children can ‘ switch off’. If they’re getting bullied, it will most likely carry on within the walls of their own home through their mobile phone, game console or laptop. There’s no escape. The only thing that we can do as parents is to understand the risks and encourage our kids to talk to us about any concerns they have.
The internet is no doubt the most phenomenal invention of our time – it’s a place of endless opportunity, innovation and information. Every child has a right to the internet and all that it can offer. But they also have the right to a safe and secure experience away from the threat of intimidation and inappropriate content.
A need for more offline conversation
New research conducted by BT and Unicef found that whilst the majority of parents (61%) worry about their children accessing inappropriate content online, more than half of us allow our children to play on their computers unsupervised. It also found that whilst most parents (87 per cent) have discussed internet safety with their children, of those that haven’t, 31 per cent say they haven’t because they trust them, but more than one in ten (12 per cent) say it’s because their child knows more about the internet than they do.
BT and Unicef believe that the solution to this gap in digital understanding between parents and their children lies with better education on internet safety. They have partnered for a three year programme, ‘The Right Click: Internet Safety Matters’, where they host workshops on internet safety in schools. The programme is designed to help children, their families and teachers to use the internet safely and create a forum for open conversations about why and how.
This video shows the impact these workshops are having so far (9,886 children, parents and children have taken part) and the importance of having more open discussion about child safety online.
What else can we do as parents?
As well as talking to our children about internet safety, there are a number of things we can do as parents to help our kids stay safe online. Utilising parental controls on your computer and making sure your privacy settings are appropriately set is a great place to start. Always try to understand which sites your children are spending their time on, and for younger children, place the computer is in a communal area so that you can supervise their activity.
Do you speak to your children about child safety online? Do you find it daunting staying ‘clued up’ on the internet?
Post written in collaboration